The Department of Buildings (DOB) has determined that the remains of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, the historic Lower East Side synagogue, are unstable. The agency, however, will not insist on the immediate demolition of the 167-year-old building because a safety zone has been established around the property. The announcement came from DOB late this afternoon.
The building, a city landmark since 1967, was destroyed by fire May 14. The Lo-Down first reported on Saturday that the synagogue’s leaders have submitted an application for demolition to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The application will be heard before Community Board 3’s landmarks committee (an advisory body) tomorrow (Tuesday) evening. A Landmarks Commission hearing will be held July 11.
Forensic engineers from the Buildings Department believe that the remaining facade has been compromised. Since the structure is not a danger to neighboring properties or to the public, a DOB spokesperson said, the agency has decided against issuing an emergency declaration to demolish the historic synagogue.
Before the building can be taken down, the owners will be required to go through the city’s permit application process and to seek approval from the Landmarks Commission. There has been talk of trying to preserve a portion of the old structure, incorporating it into new construction on the Norfolk Street site. The synagogue is partnering with the Chinese American Planning Council to build a mixed-use complex on the synagogue lot and an adjacent parcel.